Creationism in the United States: VII. The Lingering Impact of “Inherit the Wind”

  • Author(s): Randy Moore
  • When: 1999-04
  • Where: The American Biology Teacher
  • Inherit the Wind is one of the most popular plays and movies in American history. It appears regularly on Broadway and television, is available as a rental at most video stores, and is a favorite production of amateur theaters across the country. Indeed, Inherit the Wind is performed almost every night somewhere in the world. Inherit the Wind has also been used extensively as an educational film in science, history, and social studies classes to study the Scopes trial; I have vivid memories of spending most of a week's worth of classes in high school watching and discussing Inherit the Wind. At the time, I knew relatively little about the Scopes trial or the issues surrounding the evolution! creationism controversy, but for many years thereafter I assumed that the film was factually accurate. Others have made similar assumptions. For example, I over-heard three conversations about Inherit the Wind at the 1998 annual meeting of the National Association of Biology Teachers; each of these conversations was based on Inherit the Wind being an accurate portrayal of the Scopes trial. Perhaps these perceptions (i.e., that Inherit the Wind is an accurate historical account of the Scopes "monkey trial") are understandable; after all, the book Inherit the Wind claims to dexribe "the most explosive trial of the century," and posters and other advertisements link the movie version of Inherit the Wind with the Scopes trial by announcing that the movie is "All About the Famous 'Monkey Trial' That Rocked America!" Although Inherit the Wind includes some historically accurate moments, there are many major inaccuracies.

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